CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein’s annual state of the team address, at the opening of the Cubs Convention on Friday, sounded a lot like last year’s. The front office has a plan to end the long World Series drought, but it’s going to be executed at the pace it needs to be -- and no quicker.
“We’ve been honest since day one,” Epstein said from a ballroom at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. “If there is tension between the immediate present and the sustainable future that we’re building, we’re going to lean towards the future.”
In other words, for example, there won’t be any trading of prospects for rental players at the trade deadline in July -- not unless the Cubs shock everyone and are firmly in the playoff race. Even then, it probably won't happen.
Two years into a rebuilding phase, there is no going back. Epstein did acknowledge his top prospects are getting closer to making it to the major leagues, and didn’t back off interest in free agent Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka -- though he offered few details.
“I’m going to respect the request of confidentiality that’s come from the agent and the player, just let things play out,” Epstein said.
Because of that confidentiality, very little is known of the offers in front of Tanaka. One source thinks the Cubs will go as high as $25 million to $26 million per year and up to seven years. Others think the Cubs have only the New York Yankees to worry about -- and they’re a big concern. A Tanaka signing would immediately change the narrative for the Cubs.
“You bring him [in] and that R-word [rebuilding] disintegrates,” pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. “You always keep an eye on that as a player.”
The addition of Tanaka would probably go a long way toward keeping Samardzija around, as long as the Cubs have the money to pay both over the long haul. Samardizja is antsy to win sooner rather than later -- he wouldn’t even say the word "rebuild" -- and wants to do it in a Cubs uniform.
“For me, being a part of that building process and saying you had your hands in building it, that’s exciting, too,” Samardzija said.
With or without Tanaka, the Cubs' plan isn’t going to change. He'd speed it up, of course, but Epstein won’t rush his prospects.
“They’re going to have their time; it’s not quite now,” Epstein said.
About a year from now -- or maybe a bit longer -- the idea of acquiring only young talent should start to fade and be replaced by the notion of adding to the core. That’s when the Cubs will start to spend money, though they’re showing that desire right now in the Tanaka sweepstakes.
“I couldn’t believe more in where we’re going,” Epstein said.